Springbank 12yr Cask Strength, Claret Finish

Campbeltown region – 54.40%ABV – Limited to 9,360 bottles – £38 | €45

Did you ever have one of those “WOW” moments?  A time, perhaps, when you were stopped in your tracks by whatever it was you encountered for the first time?  Perhaps it was the first time you saw the ocean or the first time you hiked to the top of a mountain.  Perhaps it was the day your first child was born.  Those moments stay with you for a good while and can be building moments or moments that shape you in some manner.

The first “WOW” moment in memory for me was when I was 6 years old.  My uncle had gotten me Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album.  I had never heard anything like it.  Yes, I was only 6 years old but I had already become a fan of music – mostly show tunes that grandparents would play or the folk records my dad would play (Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, etc…).  Black Sabbath blew my mind.

Another big “WOW” moment for me was also music related.  About 20 years ago I discovered The Kinks album entitled “The Village Green Preservation Society”.  I remember that moment quite well.  Here I was, with my band mates, coming back from a show on Virginia Beach.  I was the driver, it was 1:00am and I was falling asleep at the wheel.  The singer of the band at the time threw “The Village Green Preservation Society” in the tape player and this was the first song I heard (and man, did it wake me up!):

One of my whisky “WOW” moments was when I had the Springbank 15yr (review soon to follow) for the first time.  Springbank is quite unlike any whisky out on the market today – such balance & character and really, quite peculiar.  I fell in love.   In a long line of what I’m sure will be Springbank “WOW” moments is this expression, the Claret Finish:

On the nose Top notes of light peat (a bit woody, almost like burning white birch tree bark) and toasted marshmallows.

The nose then gets strange in a very good way.

The scents split up evenly between the classic Springbank grassy, vegetal (actually, more like a weed filled field on a humid summer day), flinty, salty notes then that of a nice, you guessed, Claret wine (though not overwhelming in anyway).

Let’s break the Claret notes out a bit:  Tannins are apparent (very dry).

Hints of cranberry.

Some notes of a horse stable the day after a rain storm.

On the mouth Spice & citrus.

Big and creamy upfront then very drying after the swallow (and into the finish).

Veggie samosas.

Very herbaceous.

Some bitter coffee notes (Luzianne with chicory).

Cherry cola.

Finish Long with dried fruits (figs) and spice.

In sum This is a powerful dram.  I’m amazed as to how well the Springbank whisky goes with the Claret finish (and for three years in a Claret cask, the wine finish did not overpower, instead it added/augmented to the greatness that is Springbank).  When should you enjoy this?  I’d say right now being that there were only 9,360 bottles made available; I’d start enjoying this ASAP.

anCnoc 12yr & 16yr Scotch whisky – a side by side tasting.

Highland region – 43%ABV for the 12yr – $35 | £25 | €30 — 46%ABV for the 16yr – $45- $65 | £40 | €49

anCnoc, anCnoc, anCnoc… aChooo!!

Actually, it’s pronounced “ah-knock”.  This whisky, distilled by Knockdhu, used to be called Knockdhu but have decided to change the name of the whisky to anCnoc so as not to be confused with “Knockando” whisky.

The 12yr is on your left whilst the 16yr is on your right.

The anCnoc line was recently (within the past few years) launched here in the US (and elsewhere) with both the 12yr & 16yr readily available in most major markets.

If you look around a bit, some stores & online shops may have some 1993 & 1994 vintages.  There’s even a 30yr whisky out there though, it’s a bit hard to come by.

I’m a bit short on time today so I need to cut to the chase.  Let’s taste these whiskies!

On to the nosing

12yr — Lemon juice and curdled milk in a … good way.

Very sugary nose.

Vanilla and coconut shells.

Witch Hazel (originating from Connecticut!  Represent!).

Malty notes with some pear.

Apple and buttered toast (rye bread).

16yrSugared candies… for my Brits out there, Parma Violets (for my fellow Americans, Smarties).

Pineapple and dried mango (topped with salt).

Sea breeze and, dare I say, a waft (or thread) of smoke in the distance?  Nah, maybe it’s just in my head…

On to the tasting (with notes on the finish)

12yrNice entry, good mouthfeel.

Much of what I got on the nose I am getting here in flavor.

An emphasis on the vanilla and buttered bread.

A tad salty and some unexpected pizza spices on the finish which is medium in length.

16yrMuch more vegetal in flavor as compared to the nosing.

Grassy yet with hints of vanilla custard and pie crust.

Lemon pinwheels and butter cookies.

The finish is slightly drying with some oak…

In sumBoth easy and approachable whiskies.  The 16yr was the clear winner in my book with those delicious sugared candy and tropical fruit notes.  The 12yr was nice however, I would have liked to have tried this at 46% and non-chill filtered like the 16yr is.  I feel bad for the Brits out there – the 12yr is at 40% ABV while here in the states, we get a slightly higher ABV for our 12yr.

So, while the 12yr is pleasant enough, I’d put my money down on the 16yr for the win.  Summery, light, refreshing.

Special thanks goes out to Kathy Lewis-Flanigan for the generous samples!

Huge Holiday discount for the “Nth” Universal Whisky Experience in Las Vegas!

The good folks behind this spring’s big show in Las Vegas (March 18th & 19th, 2011), the “Nth” Universal Whisky Experience, passed this information on to me – just about 30% off the regular ticket price – just might be the thing to push you over the edge to buy a ticket!

Click the image below to go to their site and find out all of the details on what is expected to be an insane show!

Old Pulteney both 12yr & 17yr versions.

Highlands region – 43%ABV for the 12yr – $35 | £25 | €3046%ABV for the 17yr – $70 | £45 | €53

Just doing a little side by side today of two Old Pulteney whiskies.

The 12yr is picture right and the 17yr on your left.

The 12yr and the 17yr (both award winning whiskies, mind you) are both, in my opinion, good stand-by whiskies.  Something to keep on your shelf at all times.  These whiskies are perfect for those who are not familiar the juice and nice for those who are and want something balanced, full flavored and easy going.

I just need to remark quickly on the bottle shape as I find it to be most strange.  Almost as strange as their stills look.  But hey, their stills produce some fine-fine spirit so let’s not make judgements upon appearance.  Ok?

On to the nosing

12yr A bit forceful (has a bite), yet fresh and inviting.

Honey elements as well as citrus & cream (like and orange creamsicle).

A second nosing offers a salty sea breeze  and some grassy notes.

Fennel seed, vanilla and a good bit of malt.

A fairly balanced nose.

17yr Much softer than the 12yr; the vanilla is creamier in scent.

This is sweeter smelling – like sweet summer flowers also, pressed flowers.

A good deal of tropical fruits.

Something woodsy in here, like white birch bark.

A bit salty like the 12yr but not oceanic, more like food-type salt.

On to the tasting (with notes on the finish)

12yr Big & malty with fresh lemons and very honied.

Nice chewy-ish mouth feel.

Salty, grassy and a touch vegetal (think celery).

Some oak in there (didn’t really get that on the nose).

A good long and dry finish.

17yr A big voluptuous whisky – toying with my tongue!!

A truly fabulous mouthfeel.

Candle waxiness.

Celery (just like with the 12yr) and big old salt lick.

Baked goods with sweet icing.

Spicy as we get close to the finish.

And, speaking of finishes… A big bruiser of a finish!

Long and creamy however, very fizzy (if that makes sense).

In sum These are two solid whiskies.  No doubt about it.  I did not do this side by side to pit the two against each other.  I just wanted to see the differences between the two.  Both are perfect summery drams.  The 12yr is light and very approachable  – almost like an aperitif whisky.  The 17yr is more of an after dinner digestive whisky.  I wont lie here though… the 12yr is really the best bang-for-your-buck whisky of the two.  At about $35 (or £25 in the UK)  in many markets, you can’t go wrong with it.

Special thanks goes out to Kathy Lewis-Flanigan for the generous samples!

Suntory Hibiki 21yr – Absolute brilliance in a glass

Japan – 43%ABV – 700ml bottle – £103.40 | ¥13,700 – not available in the US and barely available anywhere other than Japan.

The Hibiki 21 year old was one of the biggest surprises for me in 2010.  This is not one I had gone out of my way to seek out.  Sure, I knew about it; read about and lusted after it but being that it was so hard to come by, I didn’t hold my breath on the chance that I may find a bottle.

So, if I read about it, learnt about and followed it with a drooling mouth, why-o-why was this such a surprise for me!?  Well, because one day it just showed up on my door step without me even knowing about it!  Seriously, when I opened the box to find a bottle of this from my friend Yoshi @ Suntory, I nearly wet myself.  Yoshi – a sincere thanks for this gift!

This whisky is a mix of malt & grain whiskies from the three different Suntory distilleries as well as a mixture of different cask types (American Oak, European Oak & Japanese Oak, etc…).  As with all whiskies, the age statement printed on the label represents the youngest whisky contained within the bottle.  There is some much older whisky in here too!

The Hibiki 21 has won three gold metals, three years in a row and has just won the title of “World’s Best Blended Whisky” in 2010 by the WWA.

Looks like I’m in for a treat here…

On the nose Warmed car seat leather on a summer’s day.

Very perfumed, lovely.

Slight tones of engine oil which actually compliments the pipe tobacco notes I’m getting here – bringing back memories of afternoons with my Grandpa John and his house in Fairfield (Connecticut) – he loved his pipe (he loved his Scotch too).

Apricots, toasted walnuts, hazelnuts and burnt marshmallows.

Again, lovely nose.

On the mouth Like drinking happiness.

Chocolates and jasmine tea – a good deal of jasmine actually.

Has a bit of a bite to it, too.

An apple orchard.

Vanilla bursts through and nuts follow closely behind like trustworthy sidekicks.

Finish Like a body builder, the finish seems to grow in strength.

Gobs of vanilla, still nutty and the perfuminess comes through quite nicely.

In sum This is one of the most balanced and delicious drams I’ve had this year.  I will be doing a 2010 “Year In Review” post and I’d expect this one to be way high up on the “best of 2010” list.  This can be both an everyday malt and a celebratory malt.

Other opinions

Dr. Whisky seemed to love this.

Mark at Whisky Cast scored it a 96!